In response to my story on great car names that lost their luster, a reader asked why I had not included the Ford Thunderbird. Indeed, I struggled with that one. Some car enthusiasts feel that Ford hurt the name when it turned the original two-seater into a bigger luxury coupe with a back seat. I think many T-Bird fans feel otherwise. The T-Bird story is far more nuanced than “which is the real T-Bird?”

So, Hagerty is asking, “What makes a Thunderbird a Thunderbird?” I’ll get things started with my opinions and then encourage readers to give their thoughts in the comments section.

What’s in a Name?

Such was the strength of the Thunderbird name, or, as marketers call it, “brand equity,” that it could evolve or morph into different cars over the decades and still find success. The Thunderbird became many different cars, each with its own story, its own level of success and its own fans. With that kind of history, it’s legitimate to ask, “What makes a Thunderbird, a Thunderbird?”

How you answer that depends on what your favorite Thunderbird is. Here’s my take on Ford’s personal luxury car.

A Tale of Two Icons

Some still argue that the original T-Bird is the “real” one, but I believe that the 1955-1957 T-Bird was more of a pop-culture icon than an automotive icon. Here’s why: Musicians may have written songs about the Thunderbird, but other carmakers didn’t copy it. And although the Ford was conceived as a Corvette-fighter, a few short years later Ford essentially conceded that the T-bird had gone in a different direction.

Ford’s Thunderbird captivated America from the moment it appeared in public in 1954. In its three-year run, the two-seat T-Bird sold about 53,000 cars. That was low by Detroit standards, and no other company saw a business case worth pursuing.


On the other hand, Ford launched a whole new market segment, the “personal luxury car,” when it turned its Thunderbird into a larger coupe for 1958 (a.k.a. “Squarebird”). Other brands would follow: The 1962 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk, 1963 Buick Riviera, 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado and even 1967 Cadillac Eldorado owe a debt to the 1958 Thunderbird.

Thunderbird marketing entered new territory with the ’58, positioning a model from a mainstream brand as a luxury lifestyle vehicle. It was a creative – and successful – approach that would serve Thunderbird well for decades.

Jet Age Chariots

As significant as I know the 1958 Thunderbird to be, it’s not my favorite. I much prefer the 1961-1963 and 1964-1966 T-Birds. Both exemplified the decade’s jet age milieu. The 1963-1965 Riviera was a more elegant and beautiful, but those early and mid-’60s T-Birds had Rat Pack swagger. Ford advertising touted “the private world of Thunderbird.”

That brings me to my favorite Thunderbird of the classic era, the 1967. Ford created an all-new look on Thunderbird’s first body-on-frame chassis. The two-door showed the Mustang’s influence in both the proportions and some detailing. I loved the hideaway headlights. The four-door adopted the Lincoln Continental’s rearward-opening “suicide” door style – largely impractical but oh so cool.

Bigger, Not Better

I think Ford got carried away for 1970, putting a big Pontiac-like beak on the T-Bird’s grille. The Thunderbird would keep on growing, sharing the chassis with the larger Continental Mk. IV in 1972. As the T-Bird got bigger, sales got smaller, except for an odd surge to 87,000 for the ’73. The big Bird rode like a cloud, but I never liked these leviathans.

Mainstream Bird

By the early 1970s, the Thunderbird’s hold on “affordable luxury” was under attack from a new wave of even more affordable “personal luxury” cars from mainstream brands, particularly the Pontiac Grand Prix and its cousin, the Chevy Monte Carlo. The concept was the same, and the image marketing was similar. The big difference was the “smaller” size and lower pricing.

Ford took note and issued the 1974-1976 Torino-based Elite as a “midsize car in the Thunderbird tradition.” And then, presto, with a restyle for 1977, Elite became the new “downsized” Thunderbird, with a price trimmed by $3,000. Customers bought nearly a million over three years, making it the best-selling T-Bird ever. The Thunderbird was now mainstream.

Buyers were not as enthusiastic about the 1980-1982 Fairmont-based T-Bird, a smaller car that looked overcooked and awkward wearing the previous models’ neo-classic design cues and overdone trim.

The ninth-generation model put an attractive “aero” body on a Fox-based platform, and sales jumped 50 percent over the previous car. This was an attractive, comfortable and competent midsize coupe, but the T-Bird’s country club status was long gone. The 1987-1988 Turbo Coupe brought back some of T-Bird’s special character with performance and technology, and single-handedly established a cult following.

The End of the Coupe

I’ll state right up front, my favorite Thunderbird is part of the 1989-1997 series, the Super Coupe built through 1995. I loved the design and the way this supercharged model drove.

With the tenth-generation model, Ford tried taking the T-Bird a bit more upscale with more room and comfort and a sophisticated chassis featuring independent rear suspension. The car looked bigger than the previous Thunderbird but was slightly shorter on a nine-inch longer wheelbase, and rear seat room was much improved. This was the longest-running Thunderbird series, at nine years. Customers liked it, but the market for big coupes was dying. SUVs were taking over. Ford pulled the plug on Thunderbird after 1997.

The End, Again

Like many car buffs, I was intrigued by the news of a two-seat T-Bird revival. Yet, upon seeing the production car, I could only think that it was retro design gone too far. I’m sure the 68,000 people who bought a 2002-2005 Thunderbird would disagree with me. However, that figure was well below Ford’s projection, which is why it cancelled the revived two-seat Thunderbird with no successor model.

By trying to appeal to those who longed for the 1955-1957 Thunderbird design, I think Ford missed an opportunity to do something truly creative. They could have brought the original concept into the 21st century. Such a Thunderbird would never have been more than a niche model, but it would have been special, a “halo” vehicle for the Ford line, as the T-Bird once was.

In today’s crossover-obsessed auto market, there’s just no place for “the private world of Thunderbird.” That’s too bad. Cherish your favorite T-Bird, whichever it may be.

Whether they are more sporty than utilitarian or vice versa, sport utility vehicles aren’t defined by displacement, a fixed or removable top or the level of creature comforts. Two doors or four, eight cylinders or six, manual or automatic, Ford, Chevy, International or Jeep, it seems there is an SUV for every lifestyle, from mending fences in Montana to schlepping the kids to soccer practice in Scarsdale.


I like my Broncos old school, and at September’s Fall Auburn sale, Auctions America offered a 1966 with removable hardtop. This was the first production year for the Bronco, and they were really basic, though they were available in pickup, wagon and roadster form. Lot 3157, in red with a white top and a 289 underhood, showed very well. Selling at $32,450, this Bronco looked as ready to take on logging roads as it was suburban streets.

If you think International Harvester just makes trucker caps for bearded ironic hipsters, you’re reading the wrong magazine. IH also built SUVs, and the Scout was well respected as a workhorse and generally perceived as good looking despite its utilitarian roots.

While we were scouting around for great buys on an International, we found this 1979 Scout II Rallye at Mecum’s Austin sale. Lot F59 really stood out, and not just because of its orange and white livery. With a 348-cid V-8, air conditioning, power steering and power brakes, it brought a mere $9,900 and gets the gold star for not only individuality but also SUV personality.

There’s no way to talk about the utility aspect of SUVs without mentioning Jeep, and at Palm Beach, Barrett-Jackson sold lot 53, a 1988 Jeep Grand Wagoneer. The semi-official car of places like the Hamptons or Martha’s Vineyard, these big bruisers make you look as if you belong, even if you’re just lost. All of the late Grand Wagoneers like this one were equipped with vinyl “wood” sides and a leather and cloth interior. With the 5.9-liter V-8 and automatic transmission, this one was a solid bargain at $11,000.


Bet you can’t think of a nameplate still in use that predates Chevy’s Suburban. There are a lot of Suburbans out there, and we’re seeing more and more classic examples find their way to collector vehicle auctions. Back to Barrett-Jackson Palm Beach for a 1978 in two-tone bronze and tan with a tan interior. Equipped with a 350-cid V-8, three-speed automatic, air conditioning and cassette, this beast also included what could be the perfect period accessory — an-old school phone-style CB radio. Lot 608 sold for relative peanuts, at $6,050.

If you were looking for something more vintage, you could have purchased lot F106, a 1972 Suburban at Mecum Denver, in two-tone blue with a white top and black vinyl interior. A hard-to-find three-door model, it came with factory front and rear air conditioning and power steering. This one easily would have held all the Griswolds on their vacation, without having to strap Aunt Edna to the roof. It brought a fair price, too, at $20,900.

The definition of collector cars keeps changing, and it now encompasses all kinds of trucks. We’ve only scratched the surface here with what’s available, and if you’re not one for auctions, the good news is that most collector SUVs are not rare. Find one on Craigslist — or even on the bulletin board down at the laundromat. You won’t find a Duesenberg that way, but it’s a good bet you can get yourself a decent, classic SUV not too far from home.

1969 dodge

With his draft number up in 1969, Ron Smith was called into service. Faced with the very real prospect of not returning home, he splurged on a 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona and then had the Spirit of ’76 flag painted on the doors and “USA” emblazoned on the wing pillars. This car matters, because more than 40 years later, it remains in his hands, largely in its original condition.

In that era, as the American people began splintering along ideological, political and generational lines, outward displays of patriotism were not the norm among increasingly disaffected youth. In a year when flags and draft cards were being burned in equal measure, Smith’s decision to outfit his new car with the image of the American flag seemed almost unfathomable.

His car was a brand new Dodge Charger Daytona, one of 500 of the world’s fastest production cars. Created by Dodge in summer 1969 to regain ground lost by the Charger 500 within NASCAR, the Daytona was intended to be a limited-edition, high-performance car capable of winning races. Its objective clear, the Charger Daytona took 1st in its inaugural race, at the Talladega 500. With its outrageous nose cone, aerodynamic styling, powerful V-8, and iconic 23-inch stabilizer wing, the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytonas soon earned the nickname “Winged Warriors.”

Given this moniker, it seemed an appropriate choice for the just-drafted Smith as he began what he perceived as his final days on American soil. He immediately set about outfitting the car with his patriotic flourishes. Smith also wanted to feel it at speed, so he took it to a test track, where he topped 170 mph. And in the deserts of Nevada, on a trip from Seattle to Texas, he outran cops as he rushed toward an uncertain future. Before he left for war, however, Smith’s car had a starring role in a Dodge commercial. Finally, he parked the Daytona to await his questionable return to the States.

But he did return, and Smith reunited with his beloved ’69 Charger Daytona, using it as his daily driver for a number of years. Then, sometime in the late 1970s, the car ended up in a garage in Smith’s native Pacific Northwest, where it sat for the next 30 years, collecting dust.

While never truly lost, the car had been unmolested and largely forgotten by all but a select few for decades before Smith, with the help of a local rod and custom shop owner, resurrected it. Smith and the Daytona again garnered much attention, and several stories appeared in the media on the car and its patriotic owner; its first public display came at the 2014 Pacific Northwest Concours at LeMay – America’s Car Museum.

Some 45 years after its original purchase and paintjob, it was seen more as a remarkable, well-preserved relic than the controversial political statement it had been in the 1960s and ’70s. With its patriotic symbols still displayed proudly and Smith beaming beside it, this 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona won the HVA/FIVA Preservation Award.

Serving as a reminder of a highly charged political climate and one man’s unassailable drive to display his patriotism in the face of protests, Ron Smith’s Dodge Charger Daytona offers a glimpse into a tumultuous era that divided the country.

Source : hagerty.com

Are you at the point of purchasing a new vehicle? Are you afraid of the whole process? Read this article for the best tips to help you purchase a car is not that hard after all.

You do yourself a great disservice if you fail to negotiate a price lower than what your salesperson first offers. You must not buy a car for what it says on the advertised price. These prices are purposefully high to allow negotiating room for the seller.

Know what kind of truck or car you want before stepping foot into a lot. Research all of you options prior to shopping so you can figure out what works best for your budget and financial situation. This research will also lets you an idea of the price that you should expect to pay for a specific vehicle.

Bring a friend on your car shopping day.This person can be a friend, a co-worker or a friend.

Get the advice from family members and friends with regard to their vehicles. How do they with their current vehicles? Do they regret buying the decisions they got isn’t that great? What things are they know about different cars that are out on the market?

Never exceed the maximum amount of this budget, no matter how much pressure you get from the dealer.

Test drive any car before you buy.

You can find any car you want on the Internet. Do not visit a dealership before learning all about your options.You can find all kinds of stuff out as much information as you just do a simple search on the Internet.

Try renting cars to get a car in order to test it out.This will give you get a good idea of what it is like to drive. Go on a trip in that car stands up to the abuse. This is an excellent method of getting comfortable with a vehicle before buying one.

You must have an upper limit on your number in mind before going to a dealer.

Ask the dealer if you can have a mechanic to inspect the car. This mechanic needs to be one you trust.Avoid using mechanics that the dealer’s mechanic. A good mechanic will let you determine whether or not the vehicle is priced reasonably and free of defects.

Do not discuss your trade-in right away.Wait to mention a trade-in until after you have negotiated the new car.

Look at online car prices on cars near where you live. Researching prices online can give you figure out where to get the lowest price.

If the salesperson goes to the manager to “present your offer” to them, you should realize that they will not bring back the lowest possible price just yet. Make another offer, he will make the lowest available offer. They want to sell the car quickly, so at this point you should be getting their best deal.

Don’t dress up when you visit the dealer. It won’t be easy to tell a dealer to provide you need a great rate if you have tons of diamonds and pricey furs on.

Do proper research before you go shopping for a car. Look at automobile comparison sites online and places like magazines to see if you can find a vehicle that meets your needs. You will also find information about the price of each vehicle is as well what features and pricing. This will give you time and money when you get the best deal.

If you’re buying a vehicle and you’ve got the credit to receive that bank-offered interest rate, use it towards buying a car. The bank will allow you to pay minimum interest in comparison to them.

Speak with friends and family about car shopping. See if they had a good experience or would recommend any dealer. If you are recommeneded to a dealership a few times, then you should ensure you visit it.

Always test drive any car before you are considering purchasing. You must get a car you’re purchasing in order to see what it drives like to you. If you visit a dealership and the vehicle you are interested in is not there, go elsewhere and drive a car that’s similar to get a feel for it.

This is the mechanical issues or damages caused by wrecks. If any are found, either move on or try to get a lower price.

Begin the negotiation at wholesale price. You can get this number at many different websites.Plan to get your car at invoice or a little bit over invoice.Once you find the bottom line, then discuss any special incentives or financing options. This approach ensures that you are getting the best deal on the car you wish to purchase.

Keep in mind that a lower monthly payment doesn’t mean that you are going to pay less money. Salespeople often try to use this to get you to spend more. It is really just involves changing your loan’s terms. The salesman is still getting the same commission.

Ask for another salesperson if you don’t like the one you’re dealing with.You should not feel intimidated or pushed into making a car. If this is the case, though you are interested in making a purchase, ask for a different salesman.

Are you feeling better now? This advice truly is priceless, and it will make your car shopping experience a good one. Share this article with loved ones so that everyone is happy.

Have you ever gone shopping for a car before and hated it? Perhaps you are just missing some helpful advice. This article helps make car purchases a great start.

You can literally save thousands by doing some research online. When you locate the model you want, either go to the dealership selling the car or have your own dealer get the car for you. If the vehicle isn’t too far away, try going to save more money.

Take the time to research your dealer before you make any offer on a car. You will have a better negotiating advantage if you are aware of their trade and financing options. Reading customer reviews is a good way to avoid scams or pitfalls.

Test the merchandise before you purchase.

You can find all sorts of cars for sale online. Do not even visit a dealership before learning all about your options. You can find out as much information as you just do a simple search on the Internet.

Purchasing a new car is both exciting and exhausting at the same time. There are a number of websites that consolidate information from various private owners and dealerships so that you to compare specs and models.

You must know exactly how much you can afford. You should establish a comfortable car payments and your insurance. You might need to search for a loan before starting the shopping process.

Bring a friend who has nothing to gain or lose from your decision. They will allow you to see mistakes so you’re not making a decision based decision. Ask them ahead of time to keep their eyes and ears open for any flaws that they identify during a test drive.

You should have your spending set before going to a dealer.

Ask the dealer to allow a mechanic go over the vehicle you would like to buy. This mechanic needs to be one you trust. Don’t use the mechanic your dealer recommends to you. A good mechanic can help you know what condition the car is in.

The job of a profit as possible. This should be obvious, but a good seller can hide this. Be mindful of the lookout for any extra costs that could be added onto a deal. Even low-priced cars can be overpriced by hundreds or thousands.

If you feel intimidated by a salesman, leave the premises. Even if a salesperson wishes for you to stay, exit anyway. Get out of there!There are many available options to stay somewhere that makes you feel hassled and uncomfortable.

Look at online for prices in your local city and in the cities nearby. Researching prices online can help you information about which city will offer the lowest price.

Be sure you’ve discovered rebates before you go shopping. Lots of car dealerships provide a rebate on their site in order to encourage fast decisions.

Look at “hidden” expenses associated with a car. Different cars have different costs in maintenance, fuel efficiencies, resale values, and insurance costs. Look into the gas requirements, how much it costs to change oil, along with gas requirements. These are all factors that can tremendously impact your actual cost vary significantly.

Don’t let the sales staff take you in. They may seem friendly, but it’s so they can gain your trust.

Investigate your finance options prior to shopping for the vehicle. This can give you the best possible deal for your budget. You will know exactly what you can afford and won’t be distracted by various low down payment offers if you’re able to create a budget in your mind prior to starting any kind of car deal.

Never tell a car salesman a hint that you need new wheels now. They will then put pressure on you to buy a harder bargain than they would have otherwise.

A customized car is a great way for you to personalize your automobile. Ask the salesperson to offer some extras and negotiate the prices of these items.You aren’t tied to one particular dealership; you have the option to take your business elsewhere.Don’t allow them to control your purchase of a custom car.

A tech drive isn’t sufficient; a new car. If you are purchasing a vehicle that has new features on it, you need to take the time to familiarize yourself with them before making a purchase. Ask the dealer to set up a tech drive during which you can test the car’s features work well with your electronic devices.

When you take a vehicle for a test drive, whether it is new or pre-owned, brakes and see how it feels. Make U-turns, back up, and back up.This is the only way to get a better feel for how the vehicle operates.

Do not get coerced into purchasing unnecessary options for your vehicle. These are often not worth the additional cost or cheaper at another location.

Always look up the Blue Book car before beginning to negotiate what you will pay for it. Anyone selling a vehicle will sell it for as much money as they can.

Dealers hike their fees up in order to make a lot of money to profit off of situation.

Use a credit card to make your down payments. If the dealership goes bust before you get your car, you can dispute these charges. Any payments that were made with cash may as well have been thrown away.

When next purchasing a car, use the tips from this article. With this advice in hand, car shopping will be an easier experience. Use this article wisely and save it so you have it for later.